Gise J. Van Baren is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Hudsonville, Michigan.

That there is deep concern among the “conservatives” in the Christian Reformed Church becomes obvious in reading some of the publications, as The Outlook, and Christian Renewal. Again and again, these magazines decry the signs of growing apostasy (though few seem to dare to use the word) in that church. A recent issue of The Outlook, August 1987, is an example of that great concern. Several articles give instances of disturbing developments. In an article, “Creation and Evolution at Calvin College”, the Rev. Randal Lankheet expresses his own great unhappiness:

The Board of Reformed Fellowship also disagrees with much of what Professor Van Till has written in his book. So, at a recent meeting, the Board discussed how it might help to bring about some clearer understanding of the issues raised in The Fourth Day. It was thought that a debate between Van Till and an equally knowledgeable scientist taking a different position would most Quickly get at the heart of the issues involved. Besides, in a debate format, each scientist could marshal his evidence and show how he reached his particular conclusions. The audience would be able to judge whether the conclusions were warranted by the evidence each man presented. 

So the secretary of the Board was instructed to write two letters: one to Dr. Van Till of Calvin College and the other to Dr. Gish of the Institute for Creation Research. Dr. Gish immediately responded that he would be happy to come and debate Dr. Van Till. However, Dr. Van Till declined the Board’s invitation. So the Board scheduled Dr. Gish as the sole lecturer for that evening. . . . 

I came away from the lecture with a profound sense of gratitude that in Dr. Gish and others we have scientists who are not afraid to take on the evolutionists on their own scientific turf. Surely, as a pastor, I have neither the time nor the expertise to study and to refute evolutionary theories. Thank God for men like Dr. Gish who have that time and expertise. 

What saddens me is that we did not have the opportunity to hear the other side that night. How helpful it would have been for Professor Van Till or one of his colleagues from one of the science departments to respond to Gish’s facts and to his conclusions. Yet, despite pleas from the Board of Reformed Fellowship for a public forum on these important matters, the science professors at Calvin College turned us down. Can it be that these are the same men who frequently champion the cause of free inquiry at Calvin? Or does their definition of free inquiry go only as far as the closed doors of the classroom where they can teach what they want in secret?

In another article, in which a summary of the decisions of the C.R.C. Synod of 1987 was given, Rev. John Engbers concluded:

. . Though there were few major issues, many small decisions concerning the ways in which the CRC will carry on its business through ministers, elders, and deacons will undoubtedly have longranging effects on the style and identity of the denomination. The “women’s issue” surfaced time and time again in the debate and those who wish to open all the offices of the church to women I could take great satisfaction and encouragement from the actions of this synod in my judgment, the CRC will have women serving in all the offices in less than five years, and there are churches waiting in the wings eager to be the first to make such history. The roll call votes, of which there were eleven, were decided by small margins, usually five or six votes. The debate gave clear evidence that we are a divided house; in fact, one often wonders how it is possible for such widely divergent views to co-exist in the same denomination. This was a synod that had its mind already made up on many of the issues. Who did the speaking seemed to have more influence than what was being said. From my vantage point I could see delegates signaling to fellow delegates at tables across the aisle or stage with a “thumbs up” or a “thumbs down” gesture. There was not heated debate on any issue, though there was an indifference to some speakers and positions. As I listened to the debate, it became obvious to me that we need to review our ecclesiology and understand more clearly the nature and government of the church. For many delegates synod is an exciting and learning experience. It once was that for me too, but of late it has become an exercise in futility.

In another article, “Partnership in the Gospel Conference”, Laurie Vanden Heuvel reports:

On Friday evening, April 24 and Saturday, April 25, a “Partnership in the Gospel Conference” was held at Geribee’s in Grandville, Michigan and Calvin College Gezon Auditorium respectively . . . .

Laurie Vanden Heuvel comments and makes the following observations about that conference:

1) About 130 people attended the conference, few men and few college or seminary students. About 60 people attended the communion service at which Neva Evenhouse preached and served communion. Several CRC ministers and college professors were among the participants. 

2) There was almost no discussion of Scripture through the day. Rev. Len Vander Zee (brother of Neva Evenhouse) led a workshop in

I Tim. 2

but the exegesis was a mutilation of the obvious meaning of the passage. 

3) There was a lot of talk throughout the conference about how much the promoters of women in office are “hurting.” Quite honestly, I am weary of hearing this theme. They are not the only ones hurting in the CRC Many of us have grown up in the CRC, have embraced its doctrines and positions not only because of tradition, but because we have examined the Scriptures carefully and found them to be true. We find that new views are being imposed on us which we feel are contrary to the clear teaching of Scripture and this hurts. We are called demonic and told to repent and this hurts. We cry too—and for better reasons. 

4) Another recurring theme throughout the day was the number of talented, educated women in their ranks who are convinced of their position and need to be used. Again—I am weary of this theme. Believe it or not, there are very intelligent, talented women with fertile minds and advanced degrees who do not agree with women in church office. 

5) Two items of strategy surfaced which we do well to heed. One is the attempt to furnish constituents of the CRC with positive “experiences” in female leadership in worship and official decision-making and the church will change its mind. This is an off-shoot of behavioral psychology and it is effective. Another item of strategy is Dr. Mouw’s exhortation to imitate the rule-benders, the rule-breakers; again—a very effective strategy. “OK—most of the churches are doing it (when really only a few are) so we better change the rules to accommodate them.” Does this sound familiar? Children and teenagers use this strategy all the time and it works. 

6) What impressed me the most was the depth of the chasm and the width of the gulf that divides us. Each side of the issue approaches the Scripture with a different hermeneutical stance (and the same thing is true in the creation-evolution debate) and never the two shall meet. May God grant strength and courage to go forward in the truth of His Word.

While sympathizing with the expressions of concern, one can really ask: how long can the conservatives remain one in a body of such diversity as is presented in the above quotes? With “wounds” this grievous, the whole body must shortly be affected with its “poisons”. Either the wounds must soon be excised (which seems hardly possible anymore), or the conservatives, for the sake of their own souls, must separate.